Act 1 scene 1
two days after Segun’s wife put to bed, he called on his mum to come help with the baby. Ebun, his wife was a little reluctant but because that’s the tradition, she didn’t say anything, after all, everyone needs a little help after childbirth.
However, the next morning mama arrived from the village and it was the baby’s bath time, mama refused to leave her room. She heard the baby crying as Ebun struggled to bathe her baby but she pretended she was sleeping. Ebun had stopped the neighbor who had been helping with the baby when mama arrived.
When it was breakfast time, mama walked into the sitting room and asked for breakfast. After breakfast, she was seated in the sitting room all through the day watching television. When it was lunchtime, she asked for lunch and she also took her dinner, and then went to bed.
Ebun thought it would stop but it never did and when Ebun once asked her to help her with the baby, she bluntly told her she should go get a nanny. Ebun stopped asking her for help and instead she called her sister to come stay with her while mama continued to live like she came down to Bahamas on vacation.
Act 2 scene 2
Agnes is the breadwinner of her family and everyone knows including her mother-in-law. They are one happy family but whenever John’s mum comes around there is always strife in the family. Mama will be angry anytime she sees John bathing his children. Mama sees no reason why Agnes will be coming home late and while John who is a teacher comes home earlier. Mama believed John should go stay at the beer palour instead and wait for his wife to come home and prepare his meal.
Whenever Agnes comes home late, mama will insult Agnes and call her all the derogatory names she knows. Mama strongly believes Agnes has converted her son to gbewudani, meaning she has charmed him.
Act 3 scene 3
Nath and Nora are both civil servants and Nath’s mother stays with the family. Nath’s mother takes care of the children and prepares them for school every morning while Nath and Nora rush off to work. When the school bus brings the kids home in the afternoon, she makes lunch for them and also prepares dinner for everyone in the house. Sometimes, she goes to the market to help Nora with shopping while she stays at home with the kids on weekends. Nath’s mum sees Nora as her daughter and treats her well and in return Nora respects her.
Mother-in-law vs. Daughters-in-law are among the oldest of rivalries. I have heard pleasant stories about some mothers-in-law and I have also heard some horrible stories.
I have seen mothers-in-law who treat their daughters-in-law like their daughters and I have seen mothers-in-law who do otherwise.
For a start, you go and befriend a new wife in your neighborhood and within two weeks of you knowing her, she will be so willing to tell you about her mother-in-law, especially if she has a mean one.
Many mother-in-laws don’t even have boundaries and so they keep meddling in all sorts of things that they have no trouble poking their noses into.
For some mothers-in-law, visiting their son’s house means they become the sanitary inspectors. Even if their sons’ wives had been scrubbing the toilets all day, they would still look at the toilet with disdain as if they’re infested with maggots. They would critically look at their grandchildren whether they have lice on their heads before carrying them. They will complain about how the drapes looked like they haven’t been washed in years and how her bed sheets must be changed to new ones.
You want to impress her right? You try and prepare her favorite dish. Oh Lord of heavens! Trouble dey sleep you go wake am! Don’t be surprised when she sniffles in disgust at the meal you have spent hours preparing and gives you a long lecture on how you got all the recipes wrong.
However, that doesn’t stop her from crushing the bones and licking her plates, after all, her son gave you the money.
Some will complain about how wasteful you are and how you have not allowed their son build a house in the city. Even if her son spends all his money on frivolities such as womanizing, drinking and gambling, it’s your entire fault since, “You didn’t make the home conducive for him and so you forced him out.”
What about the monster-in-law who faults you for birthing only girls? She is the mother-in-law who keeps harassing you for giving his son female children only.
She will take you on a tour of her family tree and how they all gave birth to Great Warlords who have conquered in many wars. But you alone know that the only things her son has ever conquered are mosquitoes and cockroaches. She firmly believes that you are only birthing girls, because of your witchcraft, which you intend to transfer to all your female children. She forgets it’s her son who has to donate the X&Y chromosomes.
These monsters-in-law are the ones who know how you succeeded in carrying their son’s glorious destiny into your witchcraft coven and exchanged it with your destiny. For crying out loud, what is the use of his son’s destiny? The same son who has practically failed woefully in all the businesses his wife established for him? The one who enjoys playing candy crush and watching Big Brother Naija all day while his wife toils for the family?
The monster-in-law who comes for omugwo and claims she doesn’t know how to bathe a baby? So, what exactly is she in the house for? To eat, sleep and watch African Magic only? And when her daughter gives birth, you are all over the place. Suddenly, you become an expert in childcare and you also know how to make the best soups. Why?
Besides, there are classic examples of mothers-in-law undermining their daughters-in-law before their husbands and children.
I’m not saying all daughters-in-law are angels. Far from it. I know we have very rude and bitchy daughters-in-law. Some day, I will do a write up on that but today I will be dwelling on mothers- in-law.
If you are one of those fighting all manner of wars with your mother-in-law, here are things you should consider that will help you manage your feelings and ultimately your home and family altogether.
First and foremost, before you make any move you will regret, set boundaries for your in-laws, including your mother-in-law and your husband should be on your side on this thorny issue. Be clear, concise, and yet kind on your boundaries. No matter how they try to manipulate you, stand your ground.
When your mother in-law keeps pushing your boundaries, many husbands give excuses that they mean no harm. Well, that might be true but he should also know that you were both raised differently and so that might not translate to something else to you.
So, whenever she starts her tantrums, don’t be the one to respond. Walk away and try as much as possible not to utter a word. Go watch a movie or take a walk.
Your husband knows his mother better; he knows a better approach to get through to her. If your spouse keeps quiet whenever there is meddling from his mother, he is only giving her a silent thumb up. He should speak out when she is bullying you, he shouldn’t just watch her and run to beg you when you are in tears. He should stand up for you!
However, if he keeps standing up for you, he might begin to look like the bad guy, so you should also try and work on your relationship with her too.
Interestingly, you should consider where your mother-in-law is coming from. Try and see her side of the story. Yea, you heard me right. Her reaction to you might be because she feels disconnected from her son and it might also be symptomatic of something larger.
Remember, when you married your spouse, you married into a family with deep history. Understanding where some of their problems stem from can be incredibly helpful as you learn how to approach them.
Encourage your husband to work on his relationship with his mum.
Be sincere and ask yourself some honest questions. Are you really the victim in this situation? Or are you the one fanning the fires of these negative responses? If yes, consider a change of ways or your ways of reacting towards her to combat this antagonism.
However, if you have satisfied with your conscience and she is still behaving like the same old witch, then you don’t need anyone’s approval to live your life the way you want to. Don’t let anyone drive you crazy. Her opinion doesn’t count; if you stop bothering yourself about what they think of you, you will be incredibly free and empowered!
To all good mothers-in-law who treat their daughters-in-law like their dear daughters and shower them with love, respect, buy them gifts and never take their kindness for granted, remember, it’s a cycle, one day you will be wearing that same shoes.